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#935298 - 09/14/05 04:24 AM Teaching seniors
Rob C Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/11/05
Posts: 3
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
My piano knowledge is as a performer 40 years ago, but at the beginning of this year I was "co-opted" into teaching piano at the local University of the 3rd Age. My youngest, and best pupil, is mid 60's and about Grade 4 level. My oldest is 83 and hasn't touched a piano since she was 12. I have a couple of almost beginners, and a couple of about Grade 2.

I have not had any piano teaching training, and, of course, was taught myself when young and being taught when young is so different from dealing with adults, and senior adults at that.

At the beginning I was worried about keeping their interest and I avoided getting them to formally learn scales, or formally to learn theory. I also did not expect them to memorise as I thought most would be too old.

I have found that this was a mistake. They are happy to learn scales and some elementary theory. They also try to memorise. I am now encouraging this as an aid to keeping them mentally active.

I also have designed some exercises to stretch arthritic hands.

I have just discovered this forum and hope that some teachers can help me.

Have other members had to teach "beginners" over 60 years old?

Do you have any tips? Also, any exercises to stretch hands would be appreciated.

Finally, I enjoy the challenge, but I am having to go back to fundamentals myself, to dust off my very rusty theory and to stay one ahead in sight reading.

Any help will be appreciated, not only by me but by my pupils.

Many thanks
Rob C

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#935299 - 09/14/05 01:39 PM Re: Teaching seniors
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
This sounds just great, idyllic and inspiring
even. Why change anything from what you're
doing?--sounds like you're doing everything
right. (The phrase "to stretch arthritic
hands" sounds a bit unfeeling, however;
and furthermore I don't think you can really
do this without essentially torturing
the poor folks.)

#935300 - 09/30/05 09:32 PM Re: Teaching seniors
syzygy Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/12/05
Posts: 4
Loc: Charlottesville va
Hi Rob,

Your comments seem just a bit condescending (hope I`m wrong) - Maybe you are stereotyping a bit.

I`m 80, just started piano - played jazz horn for 65 years or so - piano is going great. Playing the whole smear by ear after years of one noting it on horn. I find it easier to improvise on piano than horn.

Also placed 8 in nation in my group in National Racquetball Olympics which is not too shabby..

My point - 60 isn`t old anymore and 80 is not that old if one is in reasonably good health.

Glad you are enjoying your "seniors" - read "experienced, mature adults".

Be glad they are demonstrating to you what you will be able to do if you are lucky enough to reach their age ! LOL
Appropriate silences help create beautiful music.

#935301 - 09/30/05 10:17 PM Re: Teaching seniors
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012

Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17815
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
I often have what we euphemistically call "nontraditional students" in my classroom. They are by far my favorite students, for the simple reason that they are in my class solely because they are interested in and want to learn the material...as opposed to the vast majority of my students who are there because (a) they need a college degree to get a high paying job, or (b) their parents want them to go to college.

I expect that's similar to your situation. There are a lot of kids (most of them?) who take piano lessons mainly under duress. Those seniors of yours are taking it because they love the challenge of learning something new. They also have the luxury of more practice time than most other students.

As for their hands, I suspect a good pain reliever prior to lessons or practicing would work better than stretching. Or maybe running their hands under warm water to loosen them up.

Good for you for taking them on! And good for them!! I hope I'm still playing when I'm 80.
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

#935302 - 10/01/05 07:57 PM Re: Teaching seniors
Scoot Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/14/05
Posts: 124
Loc: Dallas, Texas
Well Rob-
I wished you lived in Dallas! Your posting shows you really are interested in your students; and that's great no matter what the class looks like.

And I felt so young after reading it!
Scoot(55 and trying all kinds of new stuff)

#935303 - 10/01/05 11:34 PM Re: Teaching seniors
musdan Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/05/05
Posts: 1173
Hi Rob,

I am 64 and started piano lessons about 4 1/2 years ago- my teacher has me playing scales, chords, and have just recently started arpeggios.

And of course Hannon exercises - I'm doing what I've always dreamed of doing and I must admit it's quite a challange. We are now working on Chopin's Waltz in a minor, have now added the pedal and Fur Elise. The pedal is tricky, if I don't think about it, it's ok, when I do either I forget to lift my foot or lift it too soon. Chopin with hiccups.

I salute you and your students - keep up the good work.

#935304 - 10/10/05 02:40 AM Re: Teaching seniors
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
I've a tendancy to arthritus which I believe is hereditary in my case. I have stuck to a flexible vegetarian diet for some 45 years, which excludes meat and dairy products, coffee etc. I do not take any medication for arthritus and never take drugs, unless forced to by a doctor.

It isn't helped by my occupation of motor engineer, which at the age of 77 I'm still at it. The State pension does not allow me to be retired and the UK is not the cheapest country in the world to live in.

I do have thumb pain and grip strength problems a bit, mostly when working in engineering but playing the piano is not painful until after I've stopped. obviously the brain is flat out trying to cope with my demands on sub-conscious recall.

So I think the only way is the diet and the activity. My fingers are still very supple and fast on repetition. And my thoughtful wife has trained my to do the dish washing (the machine is broken!)

I'm delighted to see the rather older people getting on with piano playing, so soul comforting.



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